People once said the MCU had a villain problem, but Marvel has really turned things around. In 2018 alone, heroes had to deal with Erik Killmonger, Thanos and Ghost. Now, with the release of CAPTAIN MARVEL, Marvel Studios adds another baddie to its villainous Hall of Fame.
The space adventure pits Carol Danvers against the Skrulls, a race of shape-shifting aliens that invade Earth. The alien leader is Talos, an elite Skrull soldier played by Ben Mendelsohn. Talos is massively powerful and has the potential to become one of the MCU’s best villains. Here’s why.
Who Is Talos, Anyway?
First, we should explain who Talos is. The Skrull’s origin story in the comics is short but serious. Unlike most other members of his race, Talos was born unable to shape-shift. His lack of powers initially made him an outcast among the Skrulls, but also motivated him to work his way to the top of the alien order.
The green meanie trained hard and became one of his planet’s most proficient fighters. Then Talos was captured by the Kree during the Kree-Skrull War. That defeat seemingly undid all of his hard work; he became a laughingstock for a second time. His motivation was undimmed, however, and Talos embarked on a new quest to regain his honor.
Now you’re all caught up. Talos’s journey continues far beyond that summary, but we’ll keep his backstory brief to avoid spoiling details in CAPTAIN MARVEL.
A Bad Guy Is Good To Find
As often happens in the Marvel movies, CAPTAIN MARVEL tweaks Talos a bit. On screen, the warrior can shape-shift. In fact, as Ben Mendelsohn revealed during an interview with Slashfilm, Talos is pretty good at changing his appearance:
“Physiologically any Skrull can change shape. It takes practice and, dare I say it, talent to do it well. He’s a battle commander because he does it well.”
Shape-shifting allows Talos to infiltrate an important power structure and establish a command position over a couple of established MCU characters. But while CAPTAIN MARVEL takes the Skrull in a new direction, it maintains an important part of the character’s psychology: his insecurity.
Psychology Is The Key
Talos’s insecurity could allow the MCU to explore a new kind of antagonist. Marvel villains are driven by motivations great and small. There are power-hungry megalomaniacs like Obadiah Stane and Darren Cross and morally conflicted men (and aliens) like Thanos and Vulture.
Talos is different. In the comics, his main drive is his desire to be accepted and valued. He tries to prove his worth to others, but really needs to convince himself. Compare him to someone like Killmonger (above), who never doubts his personal vision for even a moment.
We’re used to seeing villains who are sure of their goals and what they represent. We’ve rarely seen versions who spend most of their time trying to prove themselves. With that dynamic, Talos could be a fascinatingly complex adversary for the Avengers — perhaps one of the most complex in the MCU.
See Talos in action in CAPTAIN MARVEL, playing now at AMC.